ATF "Little Britches" Universe
As Buck sat on the porch, he thought back to that night almost two weeks ago. He had been so sure that he was past the fear, but the next day had proved him wrong. It hadnt taken him long to discover that as long as he was within the ranch house, he felt secure and safe; he was not plagued with the visual assaults. But once outside of those walls, he found he was unable to touch JD for more than a moment without the nightmarish scenes battering his senses. The playfulness that he had come to enjoy with the boy was gone. Buck could touch JD briefly, but prolonged contact resulted in the images once again slamming into his minds eye. As hard as he fought this reaction, he could not get past the horrific sights, so he minimized the interaction. It was a working plan. And one that he could live with for a short time. The only person hurting was himself. He was sure he would be able to control the irrational fear before long and things would get back to normal. No one would suffer, save himself.The Saturday before the Fourth of July, the team gathered at the ranch as they so often did. This year the day was spent working on projects Buck and Chris had planned to do, but were unable to complete due to Bucks injury. After repairs, Josiah and Nathan accompanied Chris and the boys on a horseback ride. Ezra remained at the house with Buck.
The day was turning out to be an enlightening one for the three men. They had heard of Bucks difficulty from Chris. Concerned about the mans behavior, Chris felt he was too close to the situation and perhaps, reading too much into the mans actions. Feeling at wits end, he had confided in them and asked for their observations and any suggestions they might have to resolve the problem. The three men had agreed to come out to the ranch and see if Chris was, indeed, being overly apprehensive.
Ezra knew that Josiah had spoken to Wilmington in the hospital and thus volunteered to speak to the man if the need to do so became apparent. The need had been obvious within a short span of time and the opportunity to have a conversation now presented itself with the others gone. The two men were sitting on the porch watching the sun disappear behind the mountains. Dusk was only an hours time away and the five riders would soon return.
Buck did not look at the undercover agent, but asked as he continued to gaze at the landscape. "Ezra, about what you had to do "
"No need to worry, Mr. Wilmington. I have satisfied the authorities inquiries as to the necessity of shooting the suspect. I can only add that the villain was fortunate to have taken aim at Mr. Sanchez and myself in a timely manner."
"And why's that?"
"Had I had the opportunity to view yours and Mr. Dunne's conditions, I would have been tempted to take a kill shot rather than merely wound the offender."
"I wanted to thank you, Ezra. You probably saved both our lives." Buck never looked at the man; his emotions were too near the top. Standish nodded in response to the sentiment.
Ezra gazed out over the yard for a few minutes, then asked, "Mr. Wilmington, can I speak freely?"
Buck sat back as he finally looked at the southerner. Frowning, Wilmington nodded.
Standish turned his chair to look at Buck straight on. "Buck, I have known yourself and Mr. Larabee for a few years now. In that time I have never divulged much about my childhood years nor the manner in which I came to reach full adulthood. I shall not bore you with it at this late date. Suffice it to say, while it was not a particularly joyful upbringing, it did prepare me for my chosen profession."
"Ezra, I know Maude. I can imagine what kind of nonsense you had to put up with." Holding one hand up, Buck continued. "Don't get me wrong. I like Maude, but she can be a little " He paused, searching for the right word.
"Caustic would be an appropriate verb. Others might be charming, scathing, beautiful, abrasive, devious to name a few." A light-hearted chuckle from Buck had Ezra smiling self-consciously. "Yes, well, I do love my maternal parent, but she is, none the less, extremely hard to like. The woman has a tongue sharp enough to cut diamonds. That, combined with a wit just as sharp, can be a dangerous combination. But I am not here to speak of my mother. I wish to speak to you about young John Dunne."
Ezra noticed Buck tense and take on a wary posture. Years of observing people served the undercover agent well. He knew he had just crossed into dangerous territory, but he plunged forward.
"You know that Mr. Larabee is not a gossip nor a rumor-monger, so when I say that, out of concern for yourself and young JD, he expressed a need for clarification."
The mustached agent's frown deepened, fringing on anger. Ezra saw it was not going well, but hesitated for only a moment.
"Buck. We know of the problem you have been experiencing the visions of losing JD." The man in front of him tensed even further and stood up, upending the chair.
"I don't see that this is any of your business, Standish. None of you."
Ezra stood slowly and deliberately. He kept his hands relaxed and at his sides. Wilmington was agitated and even injured, could still be dangerous if he felt the urge to strike.
"Please hear me out, Buck. Please."
The honest plea had Buck taking a deep breath and stepping back a half step to rest his hip on the porch railing. A slight nod had Ezra continuing.
"Your fear is an irrational one. We are both aware of that. But that fact does not make any less real in your mind. The reason Chris is so concerned is the manner that you have chosen to deal with these inner demons is harmful to you and the child."
Buck stood quickly, taking one step toward the southerner. "I would never hurt that boy." The words were hissed in their conviction.
Standish stood his ground, knowing that the words would evoke a reaction from the man. "No, Buck, you would never knowingly cause injury to any child, especially this one. But the fact remains, that you are." Ezra stepped forward, forcing Wilmington to back step, which placed him on the rail again. "In dealing with your demons, you have in essence, closed yourself off to the boy, with no explanation to him as to the cause. I am certain that you feel this is your best course of action avoid the visions by curtailing your contact with the young man in question. This will give your mind time to set itself straight and regain your equilibrium."
Buck listened to the undercover agent as he spoke. His teeth gripped his upper lip, pulling it in to be chewed on. In his heart he knew that the southerner was only trying to help, that all of them only wanted to help. They just had no idea what he was going through; he only needed a little time.
"I just need a little time. Im not hurting JD. I still play with him and in the house theres not anything different." Buck tried to convince Ezra.
"Have you watched the boy? Really watched him since you got home?"
Ezra asked. Buck looked so upset that the southerner backed away, but did not back down. He knew the man was hurting. Wilmington loved the boy and the implication that he was causing him harm was disturbing to the big agent. "Buck, you need to get help with your problem before you lose the boy."
The sound of the horses returning had the two men moving away from each other and off the porch. Ezra moved out in front to help with the animals. Buck decided to lay back and watch as Ezra had suggested.
The kids were smiling as they came around the barn. JD saw Ezra standing at the corral and he headed straight for him. Standish reached up and lifted the small boy from the saddle and sat him on the ground. Arms flew as the boy told about what they had seen and done. Standish patted the small shoulder and pointed to the house. Taking the reins, the man led the animal to the corral, joining the rest of the group as they dismounted and began the task of cooling and grooming the big animals.
JD ran toward Buck, but slid to a halt several feet in front of the man, smiling up shyly. The child's face was flush with exertion and excitement. Dirt was smeared down one cheek, made more noticeable due to the clean spots left by sweat that ran out from the long dark bangs. Wilmington shook his head at the little boy's appearance. The boy had a knack for getting dirty no more matter the situation. Buck figured it must come from the fact that JD was basically afraid of nothing and didn't mind touching whatever caught his eye.
"Ya have fun, little bit?"
The boy's eyes sparkled as he nodded. "I sure did, but it would 'a been a lot more fun if you could 'a come."
Buck glanced over at the corral to see Standish speaking quietly to Larabee. Distractedly, he patted the dark hair. "Well, maybe, next time. You better go get washed up for supper." He slowly walked away from the boy, not seeing the narrow shoulders slump and the sparkle die as the little boy trudged away from the others, toward the house.
+ + + + + + +
That evening, as the seven gathered for dinner, JD ran around the table and took hold of Ezra's hand. "Uncle Ezra, can I sit next to you?"
The man lifted the small boy and settled his weight onto his hip. "Well, I would be honored to partake of the evening repast with you, Mr. Dunne."
JD stared at the southerner, his eyes wide. He blinked twice and then asked, "Does that mean yes?"
Ezra's mouth twitched as he fought to not smile. "Yes."
"Thank you, Uncle Ezra." JD said softly as he placed a small hand on the man's face. The boy's mouth was smiling, but Standish could see pain in the big hazel eyes. He smiled past the anger that threatened to erupt and spill out onto Wilmington. 'How could the man be so blind to the hurt in the child's eyes?' Ezra thought.
The two joined the rest of the group at the dinner table and Ezra settled the young boy in a chair next to him after retrieving the booster seat from its normal position next to Buck. A quick glance at both man and boy was the only acknowledgement that Wilmington gave and the undercover agent felt the young child's grip tighten as he noticed Buck's casual reaction to the impromptu seating arrangement change.
Ezra helped the boy fill his plate. The two of them entertained themselves and everyone else throughout the meal. Several times Ezra caught Buck watching them with an envious look, but Buck never said a thing. The injured agent sat quietly through the meal, watching with a sad expression on his face. After the meal, Chris gave the boys a bath and got them ready for bed. Each of the men went in and told the pair goodnight. Buck and Chris tucked the boys in and told them they would see them in the morning. The men stood in the doorway and watched for a few minutes, knowing that the days events had tired the kids out and they would soon be asleep.
Chris placed a hand on Bucks shoulder and left to join the others in the front room, leaving Wilmington standing in the doorway of the bedroom. Larabee knew that his old friend was upset by the seating change during the meal and needed time to reflect. Chris hoped that the incident would make Buck realize that his behavior was adversely affecting the boy. Maybe JDs turning to Ezra for companionship would open the mans eyes. Only time would reveal the outcome to the days happenings.
+ + + + + + +
Things did not improve over the next few days. The Tuesday before the Fourth of July, things came to a head and Chris laid into Buck, a weeks worth tension and pent up anger fueling the explosion. He had watched as JD became more and more withdrawn and unhappy. Larabee had come home that evening to find the boys playing quietly in their room. Mrs. Potter was still at the house when he arrived since Nathan had taken Buck to his follow-up appointment and the two men were not back yet
Gloria Potter met Chris at the door; her arms crossed in anger, and told him that something had to be done. JD was becoming more withdrawn with each passing day, she informed him. Buck would not touch the boy outside of the house and the child no longer sought out the man for comfort. The worst part in her opinion though was Buck seemed to not notice the change. Knowing how much the two cared for each other, Gloria was at a loss to understand Bucks behavior.
Chris assured the woman that something would be done. He planned to have a talk with Buck that evening, if his physical had gone okay. He walked Gloria out to her vehicle and stood conversing for a while. Chris was aware that the situation had gotten worse. He had avoided pushing his friend, but now the boy was beginning to suffer. He realized that Buck would not face his fears until he was pushed. And, as much as Larabee hated to do it, the boy's welfare was at stake.
Nathan had dropped Buck off and left after only a few minutes at the house. He and Raine had plans that evening and he was anxious to get back to town. Buck was standing at the kitchen counter with a soda when Chris walked in and grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator. He indicated the porch with the bottle and the two men moved outside.
"What'd the doc have to say?"
"Aww, I'm fine. He says I can go back to work on light duty in a week." Buck moved over and leaned against one of the posts that supported the roof. He surveyed the yard as he took a long drink from the can. "That why you wanted to talk out here?"
The big man turned to gaze at his long time friend. Wilmington's lips were compressed and his eyebrows rose as he waited for Chris to answer. He drew another drink from the can. Knowing what Larabee wanted, Buck was prepared to answer any question the man might have. At least he hoped he was.
"This has gone on long enough, Buck. It's has to stop."
Folding his arms across his chest, Buck leaned back on the rail attached to the support post. He dropped his head as he brought one ankle over the other. When his head came up, tears were pooled in his eyes, but none spilled out to run down his cheeks.
"I don't know how to stop the images, Chris. I can't get past 'em."
Larabee moved so he was standing directly in front of the tall agent. "Then you need to get some help. I can make a appointment..."
Buck stood up, dropping his arms off his chest. "I don't need a shrink, Chris. This these " Buck hesitated as he searched for the words. "I just need some time. Just give me a little time, Chris."
"Buck, it's been two weeks. I know that isn't a lot of time. But I don't see where you're trying very hard to get pass this."
Buck's face darkened at the words. "Why do you have to push, Chris? I'm not enjoying this any more than you."
Chris stepped into Wilmington's space, forcing the man to lean back slightly. "I have to push 'cause your way of handling this is to ignore it and hope it'll just go away. In the meantime, you're hurting the boy."
"I would never hurt that boy. Never, Chris." Buck growled.
"Buck, open your eyes. Have you looked at JD lately? Have you watched him?"
Buck's brows drew down in a frown. "I see I see him ever' day, Chris. He's fine."
"Really?" Chris sneered, his mouth formed into a humorless smile. "When's the last time JD asked you to read to him, or tuck him in? When's the last time he ran up and gave you a pat on the hand or one of those quick little hugs he gives when he wants to comfort you?"
Buck's mind reeled as he thought about those things. He couldn't remember the last time he had hugged the boy. He knew the last time he had tried, he had shuddered as the images rolled across his closed eyelids. Swallowing, his eyes implored the blonde, as did his words. "Just a little time, Chris."
Chris' anger faded. He knew his old friend was hurting. Larabee hated to add to that pain, but he was about to do just that. "Buck, you can have all the time you need. But you can't have it here. If you can't work it out and won't get help, I want you off the ranch and away from the boys."
Chris saw the blood drain from Wilmington's face. The man sat heavily on the rail. "You can't be serious? I don't " Buck blinked, as his mind seemed to whirl and tilt in his skull. "JD's my responsibility, not yours."
Chris threw his hands up and waved them in a motion that told Buck to stop right there. "JD stays here. I'll get a court order if I have to. But he's not going with you. You're the problem-you are his problem. Friday, Buck. You haven't done something by then, I want you out."
The men glared at each other. Neither of them noticed as the screen door silently closed behind them.
Buck thought back to the confrontation with Chris the previous evening, remembering Chris' words and how they had hurt. He had wanted to argue with his friend, but Ezra had said much the same thing-that he was hurting JD as well as himself. Buck shook his head. He wasn't hurting the boy. All he had done was limit the physical contact between them. He still talked and played some with both boys. 'That couldn't hurt him. Could it?' Buck thought to himself. He was pulled from his reverie by the sound of the screen door creaking. He turned and saw Vin standing at the door. Buck glanced down at his watch and realized he had been sitting, daydreaming, for over an hour. He held out an arm to the young blonde.
"Vin? What's ya doin'?"
The little boy approached and placed a hand on Wilmington's shoulder as the man wrapped his arm around the small waist. "Buck, when's Chris coming home?"
"Well, he's going to be a little late tonight. The boys are helping another team out on a stakeout. Why?"
Vin ducked his head as he replied. "Nuf'in."
Buck knew better. He gently raised the boy's head with his finger until the blue eyes looked at him. "Vin?"
"I promised not to tell."
"Promised who? JD?" A slow nod was the only response Buck received. "Is it something that shouldn't be a secret?"
The boy stood still for a couple of moments. Vin drew in a deep breath and released a big sigh. Looking away, he once again nodded.
Buck smiled slightly. Vin was a loyal friend and more tight-lipped than
Chris Larabee, but he had a strong sense of right and wrong. Buck waited as Vin thought about the secret. Finally, the boy decided what to do and looked at the man.
"JD didn't want to bother you or cause any trouble, so he won't come out. But he's sick to his tummy and needs the tummy medicine."
Buck frowned. Releasing his hold on the boy, he pushed himself out of the chair. "Well, why didn't you come get me?"
He placed a hand on the boy's shoulder and guided him to the door as he spoke. "How long's he been sick?"
They entered the house and headed to the boys' bedroom. The man's heart lurched at the answer.
"Most all day. He kept saying he could wait 'til Chris got home. But I don't think he can."
They entered the room and Buck strode over to the bed that JD lay curled up on. He sat down and placed a hand on the child's shoulder. "JD. Turn around here and let me take a look at ya."
"I'm fine." He said softly.
"JD, turn around here to me." Buck told the boy softly.
The small form turned and sat up, but stayed huddled as close to the wall as possible. Buck's heart ached when he saw the flushed face. He wasn't sure if it was fever or crying that caused the rise in color, so he reached out and placed a hand on JD's forehead. The boy was a little warm, but not much.
"Vin says your stomach hurts?"
Dark hair flew as the boy shook his head. "I'm okay. I can wait for Chris. I'm not sick. Really."
His eyes suddenly widened and beads of sweat appeared on his upper lip. A moment later, his stomach emptied itself onto the bed and the man. Wilmington was reaching for the boy as he sat up and slammed his back against the wall. Huge tears rolled down the pale smooth skin of the boy's face as his lips quivered.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Buck. I didn't mean to get sick." JD cried.
"It's okay, lit' bit. Let me get you something for your stomach and I'll get this cleaned up." Buck stroked the boy's hair as he spoke, noticing that JD seemed to cry even harder. Frowning, the man moved to stand up.
Buck saw Vin coming back into the room with towels to clean up the mess on the floor. Blue eyes looked up at the man as he moved to assist with the messy job. "Here, Buck" and Vin held out some towels. Buck looked at the mess on the sheets and his jeans.
"Thanks, Vin." Buck stood and wiped at his pants. Then he turned and reached out to JD. "Come here, lit' bit." He gently lifted the boy across the sheets and sat him on the floor. Buck made quick work of stripping the sheets from the bed.
After cleaning the room, Buck carried the boy to his bedroom and sat him on the big bed while he changed into some shorts. Tossing the soiled jeans into the tub, he gathered JD up and carried him to the kitchen to get something for the upset stomach. Vin trailed behind the two. Setting some saltine crackers and clear soda down for the boys, he took the seat next to the youngest.
Buck watched him slowly munch on a cracker and sip at the soda as he absently stroked the glossy black hair. Seeing the tremors in JD's hands settle, Buck decided at was time to talk.
Big hazel eyes turned up at him.
"Why didn't you come tell me that you didn't feel good?" he asked softly, his hand still moving across the boy's head.
JD glanced away and shrugged. Buck's hand never wavered.
"JD, please tell me."
The reply was almost inaudible. "I's afraid Chris would blame you."
Buck's hand paused. He glanced at Vin and saw the boy duck his head.
"Why would Chris blame me?"
"I don't know, but he blamed you yesterday."
"Yesterday?" The man realized that the little boy must have heard the conversation on the porch. He opened his mouth to explain, but was cut off as JD suddenly started begging.
"Please don't go, Buck. I'll do whatever you want me too. I won't be any trouble, or be unhappy. Please." The boy looked up at the man. "I know that you don't love me anymore, but I still love you. I'll be good and Chris won't get mad at you. Please don't leave."
Buck froze at the boy's words. Everything Ezra had said, the things Chris had been trying to tell him, were true. He was hurting the boy. How could he have been so blind to what was going on? Buck knew if the roles had been reversed, he would have likely decked Larabee to get him to listen. The big agent almost wished Chris had knocked some sense into him two weeks ago.
He reached over and scooped up the teary-eyed boy. Cupping the little face in his hands, Buck told him, "JD, I love you more than anything in this world. Why would you think that I don't love ya anymore?"
The little boy sniffed, wiping his nose with the back of his hand. "Cause I got ya shot."
"JD, you didn't get me shot "
The little boy's head bobbed as he interrupted. "Yes, I did. You couldn't get your gun out to shoot the bad man, cause you was holding me, so now you're afraid to hold me, in case you need to shot somebody."
"Oh, no JD. I'm sorry. I was upset that you got hurt when I'm supposed to be protecting you. I felt guilty and that's why I stopped hugging ya, not 'cause I don't love ya." He used his thumbs to wipe away the tears running down the boy's face. "I'm so sorry, JD. I never meant to cause you grief, lit' bit."
Buck was cradling the boy now and whispering, speaking more to himself than the child. Pushing back the black hair to reveal the boy's eyes, the man asked the child, "JD, can you please forgive me for being so stupid?"
With the forgiveness that only children seem to possess, the boy smiled up at the man. "I love you, Buck."
Buck leaned down and kissed the black hair as he clutched the little boy to his chest. He sat with his eyes closed, rocking slightly. He didn't know how long he had sat there, lost in his thoughts, when he realized that the boy was sound asleep. Glancing around, he saw that Vin was no longer sitting across the table, so he gathered JD up onto his shoulder and started through the house.
It only took a moment to move into the living room where he found Vin sprawled out on the floor, watching a program about wolves on 'Animal Planet'. Feeling JD stir in his arms, Buck looked down to see a shy smile on the boy's face.
"You want to watch TV with Vin? And I'll go get some supper warmed up?" JD nodded and Buck sat him on the floor. The sound of a vehicle had all three heads turning. Vin jumped up, running to the door.
Buck shook his head. Vin never failed to recognize the sound of Chris' Dodge. He walked to the door and watched as Larabee pulled in and parked. The blonde threw the door open and the eight-year-old jumped in. It warmed Buck's heart that the Chris he had first come to know was reemerging since the entrance of the two boys into their lives. But what warmed his heart even more was the warm feel of a small arm wrapping it's self around his leg. Looking down at JD, Buck realized just how much he could have lost. He made a mental note to call and get an appointment with the agency shrink. Wilmington was determined to get over this fear that had gripped his heart for two weeks. He didn't plan to lose any more time with the boy that now clung to his leg.
Squatting down, he picked JD up and walked out to Larabee's truck.
"You're home early, stud. Everything okay?"
"Yep, lucked out. Case closed." Larabee eyed the pair in front of him. "How's things here?"
Buck flashed a brilliant smile at his partner. "Things here are good. Hungry?"
"Sure am. What's for supper?"
"Depends on where you want to take us. We've been cooped up here for two weeks. I' m ready to go out. What about you boys?"
Chris shook his head and grabbing hold of Vin's waist, hoisted the boy into the back. "Well," he said, looking at Buck and JD, "are you two coming?"
Moving around the truck, Buck loaded JD in the back while Chris went in to turn off the TV and lock up. Minutes later, the four were on the road to supper. Shouts of 'McDonald's' could be heard coming from the vehicle as it reached the main road.
+ + + + + + +
By three the next afternoon, the entire team was gathered at the Larabee ranch. The boys were playing games with the Potter children. Chris had not spoken with the woman privately, but he could tell by the way she looked at Buck that she knew things had changed between the two.
Standish arrived mid-afternoon and the boys had assaulted the car almost before it had stopped moving. The undercover agent had been assigned the task of picking up the fireworks. Chris had allowed the boys to get a few the night before, but the big show was planned for the night of the fourth.
"Uncle Ezra!" cried the boys.
The man climbed out of the car and grabbed the two boys, one on each hip. He carried them around the front of the car and up onto the porch. There, he placed them back on their feet. At least, he placed Vin on his feet. JD was clinging to the man's arm and kept drawing his legs up, giggling the entire time. Standish finally gave up and sat down in a chair, bringing the dark haired child around into his lap.
"Did ya get the fire crackers, Uncle Ezra? Can we see 'em?" Vin stood next to the chair, his eyes gleaming.
Chris walked over and removed JD, setting him on the floor. "We can see them later, Vin. Right now, we have guests to see to."
Vin turned to Ezra. "Would you like something to drink?"
"We have horse do vers, too." JD added.
Ezra's eyebrows rose at that announcement. He saw Larabee's head drop.
"JD, it's pronounced hors d'oeuvres" the blonde instructed.
"That's not what Buck called 'em."
"I'm sure. Why don't you and Vin go in and get Ezra a glass of tea. Don't forget to put a lemon slice in it."
The boys nodded and headed into the house. Nettie Wells and Gloria were in the house talking and Chris knew they would help the boys with the refreshment. In the meantime, he turned and surveyed the area. Seeing his quarry, he leapt over the banister. "BUCK!"
Ezra saw Wilmington's head whip around. The big agent tossed up his hands in defense and began to back away from the ATF leader, grinning the entire time. The arrival of his tea prevented him from seeing what happened next. When he looked back, the two men had separated and Buck was headed in the direction of the house.
Ezra noticed the transformation in Wilmington as he approached. The lines of stress, which had creased the man's face, were almost invisible now. Buck stepped onto the porch and plopped down on the top step with one leg stretched out in front of him and the other bent up and his arm resting across it. JD moved over and sat down on the step between the man's legs, his back resting against Buck's chest. Wilmington wrapped his arm around the boy as he rested his chin on the dark hair.
Buck caught sight of Ezra watching them and smiled at the undercover agent. Standish held up his glass in a salute.
The rest of the day was spent in a lazy manner with the adults relaxing and talking while the children played. Food was served, eaten and put up only to be taken out again as more people put in an appearance. By evening, the group had grown to over a dozen adults and ten children. As the sun set, the festivities had moved from the ranch house to the small lake at the back of the property. Chairs and blankets littered the ground and people sat around waiting. They laughed as Josiah and Jake Masters, a neighbor, sorted through the fireworks that Ezra had brought. And, indeed, he brought fireworks.
"Dang, Ez, how much did you spend?" Buck asked, only to get a dressing down by the little boy standing next to him.
"Buck, it ain't polite to ask that." Vin admonished.
"Isn't." Chris corrected.
Vin's eyes rolled as he turned away from Chris. "It isn't polite to ask."
Larabee ruffled the boy's blonde hair. Standing behind the eight-year-old, Larabee whistled. "Ezra, you're crazy. Carrying that much explosive around in your car."
Ezra merely glanced in Larabee's direction. With no emotion showing on his face, he stated, "Just be thankful I did not have time to procure a vehicle of substantial size. I could only carry a minuscule portion of what I have in my possession."
Chris stared at the man. He would not have figured Ezra to be interested in family oriented activities such as celebrations and parties. But in the man's defense, there hadn't been much interaction within the team until the discovery of two young boys and their admittance to the group.
Further thoughts were lost as the first of many explosions began overhead. For the next two hours, adults and children alike 'oh'ed' and 'ahh'ed' at the colors and patterns that splashed against the black velvet canvas of the Colorado sky.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMERICA
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